Something very special happened on our Children of Inmates, Inc. (COI) Bonding Trip at Lowell Correctional Institution. In our group of seventy (70) children, caregivers, staff and volunteers were three children who hadn’t seen their mother in seven months. They had traveled down from Jacksonville, Florida with their grandmother who had been acting as their guardian.
The baby had been born in prison and had been quickly removed to live with his grandmother. This was the first time he had ever met his mother.
The bicycle generator project opened up an avenue for free play and fun for the kids who hadn’t played with their mom in over seven months. They didn’t really understand the principles of renewable energy, but they enjoyed being cheered on by their mom and grandma as their pedaling made all the green lights on the motor light up!
Tears flowed freely after we took our group picture and prepared to leave. My colleague Shellie said, “Linda, you are a grandma, can’t you get them to stop crying!” I shook my head and said, “No. Those are tears of sadness. They realize that their mom is not coming home with them.”
I have been asked so many times why we conduct the COI program. Why do we take kids to see their incarcerated parents? Are we rewarding parents who have committed crimes with a “perk” to see their kids? Aren’t we traumatizing kids? I just keep giving the same answer: we are in the process of reconnecting and rebuilding lives with the hope of ending intergenerational incarceration and we are giving people hope.
I believe that this mom was inspired yesterday to be the parent her children needs when she comes home. Even though there were so many tears, she and her children were all encouraged that they would be together again on our next quarterly COI Bonding visit.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matthew 25:36 NIV)
Executive Director, Peacemakers Family Center
To read more of Linda’s blog go to iamthriving.org
(Photo credits: Linda Freeman, March 2015)